Traveling, Teaching, and Learning

Back from Taiwan

I spent the first half of December in Taiwan. When I wasn’t in the wonderful mountains of Taroko National Park, I was teaching a one-day workshop for professional counselors and presenting at the Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation Conference. Temples throughout the island are incredibly beautiful as is the scenery. I have 900+ pictures to prove it. (I’ve placed some samples on my personal page).  Food is everything in Taiwan. Each day is one continuous process of eating. They just change the menu several times. Taiwan exports the majority of orchids throughout the world, and the acres and acres of the International Floral Expo were in full bloom. To say I had a good time is an understatement.

But the greatest treasure Taiwan offers has to be its people. To say the Taiwanese are friendly doesn’t begin to describe them. The people I met were sincere, kind, good natured, and well-meaning. This came across even with people who didn’t speak English, whether I was in east Taiwan in a high mountain monastery as the clouds swirled in, or traveling on a high speed train to the oldest Confusian Temple in southern Taiwan. The Taiwanese have maintained their spirituality while becoming one of Asia’s economic “tigers.” The Buddhist, Boan, and Taoist temples I visited were active community centers rather than relics of the past.

I also met loads of wonderful health care professionals.  Some were senior figures in the community. Others were young, many of them women; Taiwan’s future sex therapists and counselors. They will probably challenge the second-class status women endured in past generations, and work with those who do likewise. They had as big an impact on me as I had on them. The people I met helped me re-appreciate the need to consider cultural differences.  And at the same time, it rekindled my observation that couples are the same all over the world. I’ll be writing more about this in a future column.

The joy of teaching and learning

Upon returning home my quality and quantity of food consumption quickly declined, but this same wide-eyed naked desire to be a good therapist came shining through recently in working with some young dedicated counselors. That’s what I saw in the Taiwanese clinicians. It reaffirmed something I’ve known about my self:  Witnessing people put out real effort to be the best therapist they can be, including challenging their personal limitations that limit their clinical effectiveness, really does something for me in a soul-stirring way.  I get the same jazz from watching clients take themselves on, but there’s a twist with therapists. Clients finally step beyond accepted self-limitations when their personal integrity is on the line. Therapists often grow beyond their insecurities and inadequacies when their clinical integrity is seriously challenged and their skills are lacking. And, impressively, they push themselves to confront their personal shortcomings  and integrity issues in the midst of this. A snippet of a letter I received shows you what I mean:

“I appreciate what you are saying about how we are beginning therapists and so it will take a while to see all that you are seeing, and also that the Crucible Approach takes a therapist who is able to sit with the incredible discomfort of truly mapping someone’s mind.  It is hard work to be able to sit with our own insecurities for the sake of integrity/honesty.  I am seeing that I have been afraid to map most people’s minds when it means I will see how self indulgent or controlling someone is.  I don’t like finding out that people I am interacting with have a need to keep the status quo and at times will do whatever it takes even if that causes harm.  Then I need to be willing to see how I also do this and that is not fun.  I know we need this level of honesty in order to truly be free in our own lives and also to truly be therapeutic but it is like I have had a huge wake up call.”

This is why I love teaching therapists. I get to watch the best in them stand up when we’re going over their cases. Our professional workshops are increasingly case-based and I’m really enjoying them. I’ve always loved going over case material with students because I enjoy seeing how much incredible information can be extracted. But now I think I particularly like it because I enjoy seeing what it does to the therapist whose case we’re studying. It brings out the best in me as a teacher…and I enjoy seeing that too.

Workshops in North America

2011 should be a year full of these kinds of thrilling experiences because we’re going to be doing lots of workshops for therapists. We’re particularly proud of being invited by two national organizations to conduct advanced training for practicing clinicians. Dr. Ruth Morehouse and I will present a training workshop at The American Academy for Couples & Family Psychology & The American Board of Couple and Family Psychology Advanced Workshops in Fort Lauderdale February 4 – 6.  Ruth will be doing a four-day workshop on “Using the Crucible Approach with Stepparenting and Blended Families” for the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (March 3-6).

We’re also be doing training for state and regional professional organizations. I will conduct a one day workshop for the Illinois Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (IAMFT) Annual Conference (February 19, 2011). The following week Dr. Ruth Morehouse and I will do a one-day workshop at the Ontario Psychological Association Annual Conference (February 26). I’ll also give a workshop at the Psychotherapy Networker Symposium (March 25) on the advantages of differentiation-based therapy. On April 2 Ruth will present a case conference at the Society for Sex Therapy and Research annual meeting in Miami, Florida.

Public lecture

On March 9, I get to do something totally different. I’ll meet with the graduate students and faculty of the Department of Counseling at Southern Methodist University in Planno, Texas. These will be two separate conversations and should be great fun. From past experiences at other universities, I have no doubt I’ll get to see what I love to see many times that day.

In the evening, I’ll be doing a free public lecture for students, faculty, professionals in the community and the general public on “The Sexual Ecology of Love Relationships,” sponsored by the Counseling Department. If you attend, come up and say hello and tell me you’re a member of It will be nice to meet you in person.

Germany Tour

I’m figuring I’ll see the best in lots of therapists stand up in a series of 4-day workshops I’ll do in three different parts of Germany this April 2011. European therapists who attend our workshops generally take their craft as seriously as the one who wrote me.  We attract hard-core therapists.  How hard core? I met a group of German therapists when I was the keynote speaker at the 2007 Willhelm Reich Anniversary Congress in Berlin who resonated with the Crucible Approach. “Schnarchgruppe” has been meeting on its own ever since. They’ll be at the workshops along with lots of new clinicians, and I’ll bet some would volunteer to go through “the wake up call” the therapist wrote me about (above).

Actually, I’m betting at least a few of them will. Attendees can submit brief write-ups of their cases for possible inclusion in the clinical workshop, and I’ll select a few to work with. It has to be a sexual desire couple they are having difficulty with, so we can relax and really talk about case without any defensiveness. Ruth and I have used this system for some time, in part, because it creates the right system for training: Are you going to challenge yourself to grow beyond your limits or not? Are you going to give yourself the opportunity to grow by putting yourself on the line and look at what you’re doing? In front of everyone else? And keep your reflected sense of self under control?

Absolutely. Some always do. And the one thing I know, regardless of which case I pick, I’ll be watching the best in these therapists stand up.

This is going to be particularly great fun, because the workshops coincide with release of the German translation of Intimacy & Desire. Collaboration with the publisher, Klett-Cotta Verlag, has created a really wonderful multi-level tour targeting the general public and German therapists and health-care professionals. I’ll do 1 day workshops open to the public and professionals in four cities (Ulm, Bochum, Berlin, and Hamburg), and give a public lecture in Stuttgart.

Note: Dr. Schnarch has presented workshops in Germany every year from 2011 through 2015.

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